Let’s be clear: airport lounges aren’t worth all the fuss. But, I’m not completely out of touch. I get the appeal, and with the holiday travel season upon us, many flyers are thinking about how they can get behind those rarified glass doors with their whole crew in tow.
Sure, lounge access has gotten more expensive, and the spaces themselves are more crowded with the proliferation of credit cards that include access, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or a bad option for everyone. Many lounges have dedicated kids’ areas to make family travel a little more chill for everyone.
“It can be a much more relaxed environment and a more private environment, and when you’re traveling with kids, you need more peace and quiet because (airports) can be overstimulation for them,” Jon Bailey, founder of the 2 Dads with Baggage blog and owner of tourism marketing agency 62ABOVE, told me.
Bailey said when he and his husband travel with their daughters, they often choose their route based on the lounges that best suit their needs, especially on international trips.
Here’s what he said you need to know about going to airport lounges as a family, and the best, most cost-effective ways to get in as a group:
How to get in
Lounge access is kind of a game. Many factors can determine your ability to get in, from the credit cards you carry to your frequent flyer status and from your ticket to your willingness to pay at the door.
Bailey said he has an American Express Platinum card, which grants him access to Centurion lounges, Delta SkyClubs when flying with the airline, and the Priority Pass network.
Some of those lounges also include complimentary guest access, while others allow travel companions to join for an additional fee.
If you don’t have a credit card that includes lounge access, you may also be able to get in if you purchased a business class ticket or are willing to pay for a day pass at the door. Keep in mind, not all lounges offer day passes, and those that do can be pricey. Most lounges also require a valid same-day boarding pass. Independent operators like Minute Suites may be airline-agnostic, but airline-affiliated clubs typically require you to fly with them that day.
American Airlines charges $79 per person for a day pass, so a family of four would pay more than $300 to get in. A round of burgers from the overpriced airport concessions would still cost less.
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Tips for family lounges
Bailey said the key to a good lounge experience for everyone is planning.
“Just do a little research on the routing of your flight to find out if there are lounges that have kids’ areas because a lot do,” he said. “American Express Centurion lounges are always good even if they don’t have a kids area, but Denver (DEN) and JFK are standouts for being able to manage kids.”
On top of that, Bailey said, it’s important to consider your kids’ sleep schedule as you plan your trip.
“Are they going to be awake or asleep? Are they going to be cranky or bother other people because they’re awake and upset?” he said. “Any of us that have flown with a crying baby knows, (and) I’ve had that crying baby, … it’s just invasive.”
Though, to the credit of children everywhere, it’s adults who are often on their worst behavior in the lounge, so Bailey’s advice applies to all travelers.
He also said it’s a good idea to ask lounge attendants where the best place to camp out is, especially if there isn’t a designated kids area, to keep familial disruptions to other travelers at a minimum. Bailey added he and his husband always pack distractions for their kids whenever they’re taking a trip.
“We would pack these surprise bags. They were special backpacks we only brought out when we went on a trip, and they were filled with new things the kids had never seen before or played with,” he said. “Each new thing was meant to keep their attention. That really helped because it gave them focus.”
Previous Cruising Altitude: Avoid long lines and high ticket prices by traveling on holidays.
Other family holiday travel tips
Whether you’re visiting the lounge or not, traveling with your family can be stressful, especially with holiday crowds in the airport.
Bailey said no matter where you sit before your flight, it’s important to keep your cool, and doubly so if you’re traveling with kids.
“Kids are accustomed to a schedule and a program, and when they’re thrown off they get difficult,” he said. “The more stressed you are, the more stressed they’ll be … being as chill as possible and as flexible as possible will help make the experience better for your kids.”
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lounges can be for everyone, even kids | Cruising Altitude